On National Corrections Day, we need to acknowledge how we’ve failed Indigenous communities

Dominic Giannini 12 January 2021 24
Indigenous incarceration rates

Indigenous incarceration rates in the ACT continues to increase. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Indigenous people in the ACT are experiencing increasing incarceration rates and over-representation in the justice system, with a ministerial briefing revealing “recidivism reduction targets are unlikely to be met within existing programs or through business-as-usual activities”.

Despite making up less than 2 per cent of the adult population in the ACT, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for almost a quarter of the prisoners at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

Recidivism rates are also significantly higher for Indigenous prisoners at the AMC, with more than 90 per cent of Indigenous detainees previously incarcerated. This compares to 75 per cent for non-Indigenous detainees.

The 279 per cent increase in Indigenous incarceration in the ACT over the last decade is also five times higher than the national increase of 59 per cent.

“There are increasing 10-year trends in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander apprehensions, charges and arrests, as well as the proportion of apprehensions, charges and arrests that are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Non-Indigenous apprehensions and charges, however, are stable,” the ministerial briefing said.

“The ACT has had the highest increase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees since 2009-10 of any jurisdiction in Australia. Most data shows 10-year trends in ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice data are getting worse.

“Moreover, diversion rates are low.”


READ ALSO: ACT launches four new programs to reduce Indigenous incarceration rates


Using the current Closing the Gap target of a 15 per cent reduction by 2031, parity in incarceration rates would not be achieved before 2081.

If this target were increased to 30 per cent, parity still would not be achieved until 2053.

In the 2019/20 financial year, there was an average of 443 prisoners on any given day in the AMC, down from an average 484 the previous year and a peak of 507 in mid-2018.

Despite the decreasing prisoner population, the number of Indigenous prisoners still increased at a much higher rate than the Australia-wide increase of 2 per cent, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The total number of prisoners decreased by 5 per cent, or 25 people, in the ACT from 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020. The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 12 per cent, or 12 people, in the same time period.


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24 Responses to On National Corrections Day, we need to acknowledge how we’ve failed Indigenous communities
rossau rossau 7:54 pm 21 Jan 21

1. Look at remand incarcerations. Not yet proven to have broken the law but denied bail nonetheless.
2. Look at conviction incarcerations. A better indicator that is fouled by #1.

jwinston jwinston 7:33 pm 17 Jan 21

Everyone seems to be blaming governments and jails for not providing enough resources to lower indigenous incarceration rates but why aren’t the parents and elders of indigenous kids and adults stepping up in the first instance?

Kev Martin Kev Martin 10:14 pm 16 Jan 21

I find If you stop breaking the law, you don't get locked up

Acton Acton 4:48 pm 16 Jan 21

Another explanation why a 2% ACT aboriginal/indigenous contributes almost 25% of the prison population, is that it does not and the statistics are distorted from people falsely self-describing themselves on entry to the AMC as aboriginal/indigenous for various reasons.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:39 pm 16 Jan 21

We also need to acknowledge that this initiative has failed: https://the-riotact.com/act-launches-four-new-programs-to-reduce-indigenous-incarceration-rates/331463

By the way, what date is “National Corrections Day”?

Katy Did Katy Did 2:19 pm 15 Jan 21

The more we try to help, the worse it gets. We have to start with open communities, private ownership of land and free enterprise as well as the ensuring that Indigenous communities receive the same services as all other Australians. Stop State Governments from ‘hiving off’ money for Indigenous into road projects that benefit mining companies etc

Inca Serrated Inca Serrated 12:15 pm 15 Jan 21

the ACT could start addressing this issue by transforming the AMC from a place of punishment to a place of rehabilitation. This isn't controversial, it was always supposed to be a place of rehabilitation, something has just gone very wrong

    Martin Bradley Martin Bradley 1:04 pm 15 Jan 21

    Isn’t it nicknamed the Hume Hilton? Haha. I think there’s meant to be a strong emphasis on rehabilitation, and quality of life there relative to other facilities

    James Daniels James Daniels 5:04 pm 15 Jan 21

    Martin Bradley I spoke to people during last year's election campaign who had a relative in there. Their feedback was there were no education opportunities and seeing a counselor was something that took many months. The rehabilitation hasn't been happening, which is probably why its a revolving door. Then I read today that the new corrections minister refuses to instruct the directorate to answer opposition questions on notice. Those are the questions that allow an opposition to hold a government to account.

    Inca Serrated Inca Serrated 7:10 pm 15 Jan 21

    Martin Bradley you are certainly right, there is supposed to be. Unfortunately, those elements that have been shown to have rehabilitative impacts such as education, Vocational Training, graduated release, behavioural incentives, and many more have all been shown to be severely lacking at the AMC.

    Inca Serrated Inca Serrated 7:10 pm 15 Jan 21

    Not much like the Hilton is it?

    Martin Bradley Martin Bradley 10:09 pm 15 Jan 21

    Yeah I didn’t think it was even an option to refuse to take questions on notice. That’s dodgy and kind of bypassing the democratic processes we rely on. Sounds like it’s gone downhill. I guess they know nobody is going to vote them out so they don’t really have to worry what they do to cut corners

    Deb Wheare Deb Wheare 10:59 am 16 Jan 21

    not to mention the huge illicit drug problem inside AMC

Nathan Horton Nathan Horton 10:18 am 15 Jan 21

Maybe we could really start helping by letting people know they are responsible for there own actions.

    Sarah Grainger Sarah Grainger 11:46 am 15 Jan 21

    This is a highly ignorant and privileged comment. Have you actually read the article above? Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates increased 41% between 2006 and 2016, and the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous imprisonment rates over that decade widened. The Royal Comission into Aboriginal deaths in custody looked at indicators of disadvantage that contributed to this disproportionate representation, including that ‘Aboriginal people were dispossessed of their land without benefit of treaty, agreement or compensation’.

    Lynne Meredith Lynne Meredith 11:53 am 15 Jan 21

    Sarah Grainger you will find the increased rate of indigenous being incarcerated is commensurate with the increase in those identifying as indigenous...

    Nathan Horton Nathan Horton 12:08 pm 15 Jan 21

    I did read the article. The numbers are right there. Playing the victim card is not working.

    Martin Bradley Martin Bradley 1:00 pm 15 Jan 21

    I guess we’re not assuming that they’re wrongly being charged for crimes they didn’t commit, so the question is why are they committing more crimes? And how do we stop them?

    Adam Rath Adam Rath 7:58 pm 15 Jan 21

    Sarah Grainger because none of them are in there because they broke the law huh? 🙄

    Deb Wheare Deb Wheare 10:34 am 16 Jan 21

    having worked on Indigenous incarceration statistics, and in Indigenous affairs for over 30 years, the amount of ignorance you so called keyboard experts is embarrassing - why don't you actually do some research? perhaps spend some time reading some reports or academic papers before you make callous judgements. the issues are underpinned by complex sociological variables and the industrial prison complex industry is all about profit and needs urgent reformation.

    Deb Wheare Deb Wheare 10:42 am 16 Jan 21

    Sessy King the most ignorant are often the loudest when it comes to opinions that are based on their own prejudices and not facts. they know nothing but think they know everything.

    Deb Wheare Deb Wheare 10:51 am 16 Jan 21

    Nathan Horton in the same way that the govt has taken responsibility for outcomes stemming from robodebt or the Indue card? or from systematically refusing to address the majority of the RCIADIC recommendations?

    Bob Jones Bob Jones 8:02 am 17 Jan 21

    Deb Wheare And Lynne Meredith... I've heard because of the more right someone who identifys as being an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in the ACT, the more people identifying as Indigenous.

    There is no background checks, there's no documents needed, you say your Aboriginal and thats what your listed as being on the intake forms and statistics.

    Martin Bradley Martin Bradley 6:59 pm 21 Jan 21

    With the exception that programs within the prison focussed on rehabilitation can always be improved and you could call that part of the justice system that needs work. Just that that’s social worker type people, not the police, court, prison guards etc

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